Scrambling Could Make QB Decision Easier

Last week, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said no clear leader had emerged in a quarterback battle between four candidates. However, freshman Braxton Miller might have an advantage in one key area that could go a long way toward picking a starter once the season starts.

A quarterback battle in Columbus brings armchair signal callers out of the woodwork. Each potential candidate is scrutinized, dissected and weighed against his competitors in seemingly every meaningful way.

But with four candidates battling for the right to start the first five games under center for Ohio State, success in one key arena might help head coach Jim Tressel make a decision: elusiveness.

"It's always great when you have that element added to your game," said senior left tackle Mike Adams, who like senior Terrelle Pryor is suspended for the first five games of the season. "You guys have seen Terrelle. If his protection breaks down or something he can get out of there and run past everybody. It's a little bit of a security blanket, which can go a long way."

In 39 career games, Pryor has thrown for 6,177 yards, a figure that ranks him fifth all-time in OSU history. If he throws for his career average of 158.4 yards per game and the Buckeyes play for the Big Ten championship and appear in a bowl game, Pryor will go down in history as the Buckeyes' all-time most prolific passer.

Even if his name tops that list, however, it is doubtful that the dual-threat quarterback will be remembered as an elite passer. A big part of what turned Pryor into the nation's top recruit as a senior at Jeannette, Pa., was his ability to make plays with his legs and not his arm.

As a Jayhawk, he was the first prep player in Pennsylvania history to both throw and rush for more than 4,000 yards. He picked the Buckeyes in large part because he felt the program could help transform him into a true quarterback and not just an athlete under center.

It has not been a seamless process, and a number of NFL draft analysts have insisted that his future will be at a position other than quarterback at the next level. He has accumulated 2,164 career rushing yards, ranking him 18th in school history.

But what has made Pryor so dangerous is not the designed runs or the growth shown through the air. Rather, it has been his ability to make something out of nothing, to turn busted plays into big gains, that has helped make him such a dangerous threat to opposing defenses.

"It's real important because I feel like as a quarterback sometimes you're going to get pressure and you have to learn how to escape the pressure," OSU junior cornerback Travis Howard said. "If you could move out of the pocket and run and move your feet, it allows you to create plays and allows our offense to move the ball down the field."

With both Pryor and top target DeVier Posey out for five games, the offense figures to be run-oriented. A stable of talented backs including Jaamal Berry, Jordan Hall and Roderick Smith all figure to get their shot at powering the offense while an inexperienced receiving corps tries to grow up in a hurry.

It stands to reason that less importance will be placed on moving the ball through the air until Pryor returns. When it comes time to pass and things break down, the quarterback who can get out of the pocket and pick up yardage might prove most valuable to the Buckeyes.

If there is one quarterback in the battle who figures to benefit from that scenario, it is the one with the least amount of experience. Five-star recruit Braxton Miller earned his stripes in high school by proving himself to be a threat both through the air and on the ground.

Senior linebacker Andrew Sweat said Miller has shown flashes of Pryor during his first practice sessions.

"I think Braxton does a lot of things great," the linebacker said. "Obviously he has mobile ability like Terrelle but I thought he's throwing a lot better than I expected. He's throwing the ball well and he's understanding the concepts and I think he's done a good job."

As a senior, Miller rushed for 658 yards and 17 touchdowns despite battling a high ankle sprain for much of the season.

Fifth-year senior Joe Bauserman is the favorite to take the first snap under center when the Buckeyes host Akron on Sept. 3. In 24 games, he has carried the ball 20 times for 60 yards with a long rush of 13 yards. After him, sophomore Kenneth Guiton has four rushes for 21 yards with a long of 15 and redshirt freshman Taylor Graham has battled lower body injuries in each of the past three seasons.

Last week, Tressel said he wished that one player had distinguished himself from the pack but added that no one had done so. While being able to move the chains on the ground will be key, junior tight end Jake Stoneburner said taking care of the ball will be the most important factor in earning Tressel's trust.

"They just need to make sure they know what they're doing and get the ball there because as long as they can get the ball in people's hands, people are going to make plays," he said.

And if they can make a play or two on their own, all the better.

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